Belgium to spend more than one billion euros on French-built minesweepers
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    Belgium to spend more than one billion euros on French-built minesweepers

    © Ministry of Defence
    M923 Narcis, one of the existing fleet of minesweepers
    © Ministry of Defence

    The Belgian defence ministry has agreed a contract worth more than one billion euros for the construction of six new minesweepers for the navy from a French consortium. The decision was approved at Friday’s meeting of ministers. The purchase is part of a joint operation between Belgium and the Netherlands for the purpose of buying 12 new ships for a budget of more than two billion euros. The procedure of offering the contract for public tender has been running since 2016 and was piloted by the Belgian government.

    Three offers were received, and in the end the contract went to the joint venture between Naval Group and ECA-Robotics. Belgium will take six ships for a total of 1.115 billion euros – 200 million less than the initial provisional budget.

    According to economy minister Kris Peeters, 30 contracts have been lined up between the French consortium and Belgian businesses; half of them in Flanders, 35% in Wallonia and the rest in Brussels. The port of Zeebrugge will be employed to carry out the break-up of the existing minesweepers, as well as the maintenance and repair of the new ships.

    The contract also provides for the creation of a centre of excellence, eventually employing 350 people in the fight against mines at sea – a subject in which the Belgian navy is recognised worldwide for its expertise.

    The minesweepers will measure 80m in length and carry a crew of 63. The first vessels will be delivered in 2023-24, with the contract running until 2030.

    Meanwhile, also as part of an overall plan to modernise the navy, a contract procedure for the replacement of the country’s two frigates is due to be concluded next year. Another join contract with the Netherlands, this time piloted by the Dutch navy.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times